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Norwood v. Oak Hill Academy

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

March 23, 2018

ERICA D. NORWOOD, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
OAK HILL ACADEMY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Michael F. Urbanski Chief United States District Judge

         Pro se plaintiffs, Erica D. Norwood ("Norwood") and Elizabeth D. Tate ("Tate") (collectively, "Plaintiffs"), brought this civil action against defendant, Oak Hill Academy ("Oak Hill"). Plaintiffs claim a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et. seq., breach of contract, and negligence. Pending before the court are Oak Hill's motion to dismiss, ECF No. 3, and motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 12. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), the court referred both motions to United States Magistrate Judge Robert S. Ballou for a report and recommendation. ECF No. 7.

         In his report and recommendation, the magistrate judge recommended that Oak Hill's motion for summary judgment be denied because Plaintiffs' claims are not barred by res judicata. R&R, ECF No. 16, at 18-49. The magistrate judge further recommended granting Oak Hill's motion to dismiss, specifically dismissing Plaintiffs' ADA claim (Count I) with prejudice; dismissing the breach of contract claim (Count II) without prejudice; and dismissing the negligence claim (Count III) with prejudice. Id. at 19. Plaintiffs filed objections to the magistrate judge's report regarding the motion to dismiss, ECF No. 17, and Oak Hill responded to Plaintiffs' objections, ECF No. 19.

         For the reasons set forth below, the court will ADOPT the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to the extent it is consistent with this opinion (ECF No. 16), OVERRULE Plaintiffs' objections (ECF No. 17), GRANT Oak Hill's motion to dismiss (ECF No. 3), and DENY Oak Hill's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 12).

         I.

         Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits a party to "serve and file specific, written objections" to a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations within fourteen days of being served with a copy of the report. See also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an objecting party must do so "with sufficient specificity so as reasonably to alert the district court of the true ground for the objection." United States v. Midgette, 478 F.3d 616, 622 (4th Cir. 2007), cert, denied. 127 S.Ct. 3032 (2007).

To conclude otherwise would defeat the purpose of requiring objections. We would be permitting a party to appeal any issue that was before the magistrate judge, regardless of the nature and scope of objections made to the magistrate judge's report. Either the district court would then have to review every issue in the magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations or courts of appeals would be required to review issues that the district court never considered. In either case, judicial resources would be wasted and the district court's effectiveness based on help from magistrate judges would be undermined.

Id. The district court must determine de novo any portion of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a proper objection has been made. "The district court may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition; receive further evidence; or return the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). "General objections that merely reiterate arguments presented to the magistrate judge lack the specificity required under Rule 72, and have the same effect as a failure to object, or as a waiver of such objection." Moon v. BWX Techs., Inc., 742 F.Supp.2d 827, 829 (W.D. Va. 2010) (citing Veney v. Astrue. 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 845 (W.D. Va. 2008)), affd, 498 Fed.Appx. 268 (4th Cir. 2012); see also Thomas v. Arn. 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985) ("[T]he statute does not require the judge to review an issue de novo if no objections are filed.").

         Further, objections that only repeat arguments raised before the magistrate judge are considered general objections to the entirety of the report and recommendation. See Veney v. Astrue. 539 F.Supp.2d 841, 845 (W.D. Va. 2008). As the court noted in Veney:

Allowing a litigant to obtain de novo review of her entire case by merely reformatting an earlier brief as an objection "mak[es] the initial reference to the magistrate useless. The functions of the district court are effectively duplicated as both the magistrate and the district court perform identical tasks. This duplication of time and effort wastes judicial resources rather than saving them, and runs contrary to the purposes of the Magistrates Act. Howard [v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.], 932 F.2d [505], 509 [(6th Cir. 1991)].

539 F.Supp.2d at 846 (first brackets in original). A plaintiff who reiterates his previously raised arguments will not be given "the second bite at the apple Qhe seeks." Id. Instead, his re-filed brief will be treated as a general objection, which has the same effect as a failure to object. Id.

         II.

         Rule 12(b)(6) permits a dismissal when a plaintiff fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient "facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). The complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id. at 555.

         A court must construe factual allegations in the nonmoving party's favor and will treat them as true, but is "not so bound with respect to [a complaint's] legal conclusions." Dist. 28. United Mine Workers of Am.. Inc. v. Wellmore Coal Corp.. 609 F.2d 1083, 1085 (4th Cir. 1979). Indeed, a court will accept neither "legal conclusions drawn from the facts" nor "unwarranted inferences, unreasonable conclusions, or ...


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